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Toon Talk: Spy Kids 2
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
August 20, 2002
Kirby reviews the recent live-action release Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

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(c) Dimension Films

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
Young Guns, Too

At the beginning of Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, the sequel to last year’s surprise hit Spy Kids (both released by Miramax’s Dimension Films branch), we find our intrepid heroes Carmen and Juni Cortez (the slightly taller and just as spunky Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) attempting to rescue the waifish President’s daughter (Taylor Momsen, ditching her Who buck-teeth from How the Grinch Stole Christmas) from the top of an outrageously designed theme park ride called The Juggler. But their thunder is stolen by another pair of sibling spies, Gary and Gerti Giggles (Matt O’Leary and Emily Osment, who bears an at times disturbingly strong resemblance to her Oscar nominated older brother, Haley Joel of The Sixth Sense fame).

This insanely inventive opening sequence sets the stage for a continuation of the kitschy shenanigans of the first film. But through LDRMS (the Law of Diminishing Returns of Movie Sequels), by the time the end credits roll, seemingly all of the creative juices have been sucked dry from this ersatz franchise.

More then likely due to the alarmingly fast turn-around between the two installments, 2’s script lacks the joy of discovery the first film had on ample display. Borrowing a well-worn page from the Disney video sequels, the plot is a virtual reversal of the first film’s: instead of the parents (Antonio Banderas’ Gregorio, lapsing into the kiddie-movie-goofy-dad mode he so gracefully side-stepped in the original, and Carla Gugino’s Ingrid, who is stranded with absolutely nothing to do this time around) rescued by the young ’uns, it’s the junior G-men’s turn to disappear during a dangerous mission, with mom and dad sent to the rescue this time.

Added to the mix to up the espionage quotient is the double-crossing, newly-appointed head of the O.S.S., Donnogon Giggles, who just so happens to be the father of the original Spy Kids’ new rivals as well. As played without a note of either malevolence or comic villainy by the rather bland Mike Judge (who should stick to voicing Beavis and Butthead from now on), Donnogon doesn’t even come close to the grand, flamboyant benevolence of the first film’s villain, Fagin Floop, played by Alan Cumming, who, along with Tony Shalhoub’s mutated Minion, makes an all-to-brief cameo here. This lack of any true menace plays out like a good-guys-versus-bad-guys caper without much of any bad guy, a toothless family feud.

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(c) Dimension Films

Carmen and Juni’s covert mission leads them to a mysterious island populated by bizarre animal hybrids (a spider monkey who is half spider/half monkey, for example) created by the reclusive Dr. Romero (Steve Buscemi, who, after Christopher Walken in The Country Bears, is the second talented indie actor famed for his creepiness to phone in his performance in a Disney kid flick this summer). These computer generated beasties have a whimsical Ray Harryhausen feel to them, most effectively in a phalanx of sword-wielding skeletons straight out of Jason and the Argonauts. But even with such Saturday matinee accoutrements as these, the hodge-podge of a story seems to be rewriting itself as the film unspools.

All of the original Spy Kids cast returns (in addition to those previously mentioned, Danny Trejo and Cheech Marin are on hand as the kids’ real and fake uncles), with the welcome addition of the suave Ricardo Montalban (outfitted in a nifty high tech wheelchair, accommodating his real-life disability) and the superb Holland Taylor as Ingrid’s parents, who are unfortunately relegated to a lame ‘the in-laws hate their son-in-law’ subplot.

Director/screenwriter/producer/composer/cinematographer/editor/production designer/visual effects supervisor/probably caterer too Robert Rodriguez is well known for his use of a core group of actors on his films (see ‘Trivia’, below), which must make for a fun family atmosphere on the set. But unlike the cheeky giddiness of the original Spy Kids, the second film only feels like you are stuck in the middle of a family reunion … of somebody else’s family.

Toon Tall Rating: C+

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